LET’s be honest for a moment. Rare exceptions aside, Dance, the sort gracing our grand theatres’ stages anyway, is woefully conservative (dainty ballerinas teetering en pointe, a prime example), formal and unadventurous. Some might even go as far as staid.

God forbid there should be a glimmer of fun or derision.

Perhaps his formative years toiling away behind the scenes at Swindon Dance, surrounded by a motley crew of trailblazers cutting a path in the arts influenced Matthew Bourne’s off-beat aesthetic. Or perhaps not. One thing is certain: the award-winning choreographer was one of the first (and is still virtually unequalled on that front today) to hijack the stringent conventions choking dance and inject much-needed whimsy to ballet.

Early Adventures, which launched his career 30-odd years ago, remains unparalleled in its unfettered cheek.

First in the trio of works, Watch with Mother captures the frenetic energy of the playground. From conkers and hopscotch to doctors and nurses, the dancers cum wilful pupils gambol, skip, prance with boundless vim. Never one to shy away from realism, or afraid to go below the belt, his seemingly innocent bairns’ dirty minds kick in as hands dip freely to crotches.

Gloriously inventive, Town and Country is the highlight of the performance. Through a series of tongue-in-cheek vignettes Bourne’s heartfelt pastiche takes us to post-war Britain through the evocative music of Noel Coward and Percy Grainger. From a high-speed version of Brief Encounter and jolly clog dance to a madcap piece where dancers zip along on children’s scooters, Bourne’s wild ride is as visually striking as it is mind-boggling.

The unbelievable bath scene in which dutiful servants scrub and rub gentlefolk, twisting and turning wielding towels as careful blockers for the naked bathers’ modesty is simultaneously hysterical and hugely daring.

It is the saucy finale, The Infernal Galop, that truly turns conventional dance on its swollen head. Bordering on slapstick, the joyous pastiche reveals France as seen by the uptight English imagination. Can-Can, mimes and buff sailors as imagined by Jean-Paul Gaultier, all the clichés roll on by. Few would have the gall to stage a literal ‘pissing contest’, in a grotty pissoir (where else?) featuring dancers craning their necks to compare their manhoods. It drew so many laughs that the music became inaudible for a brief moment.

Bold, eccentric and fun, Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures continue to reclaim dance as a popular art form.